Indian paintbrush, Carden Alvar, ON (Photo by NCC)

Indian paintbrush, Carden Alvar, ON (Photo by NCC)

Nature Conservancy of Canada creates virtual hike of globally rare ecosystem near Lake Simcoe

September 14, 2017
Orillia, ON


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is creating a virtual hike of its Prairie Smoke property, located in the important and globally rare Carden Alvar ecosystem, on the northeast side of Lake Simcoe.

On Monday, September 18, the non-profit conservation organization used the Google Trekker backpack to capture the trails of NCC’s Prairie Smoke property.

The 29-kilogram backpack-mounted camera has 15 lenses that capture a 360-degree view of the landscape. NCC staff will walk the trail with the backpack, and the images will later be stitched together, allowing people to move through the trails via their computer.

The Carden Alvar is an important, rare and fragile ecosystem. Alvars are naturally open habitats with a thin to non-existent covering of soil over a base of limestone or dolostone. Many species rely on these naturally open habitats, including some grassland birds.

Alvars exist in only a handful of places in the world. In North America, almost 75 per cent of alvars are located in Ontario.

By creating a virtual hike of it, people will be able to see this rare environment, while minimizing the impact to the plants and animals living there. It also makes central Ontario’s beautiful nature accessible to people with a disability, or to people on the other side of the world.

“I hope that by making Prairie Smoke accessible to people online, they’ll learn and care about it a little bit more and understand the importance of conserving these ecosystems,” said Brittany Hope, NCC conservation biology coordinator.

NCC has so far created virtual tours of 18 of its properties with the Google Trekker, viewable at In approximately six months, images of the Prairie Smoke site will be stitched together and available as well.

Still images of the Prairie Smoke conservation area can be found here.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading land not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 2.8 million acres (more than 1.1 million hectares) coast to coast, with more than 74,400 hectares (184,000 acres) in Ontario.

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Tiffany Cassidy
National Media Relations Manager
National Office
Cell: 519-362-8236

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